NEW HAVEN – St. Thomas More (STM), the chapel and Catholic center at Yale University, marked its 75th anniversary with activities Nov. 3-4 that celebrated the chapel’s incorporation, the 50th anniversary of Vatican II and the completion of a $75-million capital campaign.
Events included lectures and discussions on the Catholic Church by speakers whose travel plans were not circumvented by superstorm Sandy, as well as a featured keynote on "Stories on Vatican II" by Robert Blair Kaiser, Time magazine’s lead reporter at the ecumenical council.
Capping off the celebration was the dedication of Boisi Hall in the Thomas E. Golden Jr. Center in honor of the Boisi Family – Geoff and Rene and their four sons.
Mr. Boisi is chairman and chief executive officer of Roundtable Investment Partners LLC; a trustee of the St. Thomas More Corp.; and chairman and founding board member of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management (NLRCM), a group of Catholic lay leaders and senior-level executives from diverse disciplines dedicated to promoting the best practices in the management, finances and human resource development of the Catholic Church in the United States.
However, perhaps more compelling is the back-story behind an 18-year plan to raise the visibility of STM into a vibrant Catholic intellectual and spiritual ministry under the early guidance of its chaplain, Father Robert Beloin; and Kerry Robinson, former director of development at the center (1997-2006) and executive director of the NLRCM since 1995.
Speaking at the dedication ceremony for Boisi Hall, Ms. Robinson noted that when Father Beloin took over as the seventh STM chaplain in 1994, he found significant administrative, financial, programmatic and operational challenges as well as growing opportunities in meeting the needs of a student population that is 25 percent Catholic.
For the fund-raising initiative, he relied on Ms. Robinson’s philanthropic background. That includes her service with the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities founded by her great-grandparents, John and Helena Raskob; and FADICA (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities).
The initiative called for a modest capital campaign to raise $5 million, with $1 million for a 3,000-square-foot student center and $4 million for an endowment.
But plans for the center unfold ed differently. Among alumni and faculty on STM’s board of trustees and building committee, which helped to shape the development effort, were Judge Guido Calabresi, former dean of the Yale Law School, legal scholar and senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; Fay Vincent, former commissioner of Major League Baseball; and lawyer Peter Alegi, who negotiated for land south of the chapel for an expansion.
Catapulting dreams into reality was an endowment from Thomas E. Golden Jr., ’51, which made possible the December 2006 dedication of the $25 million Thomas E. Golden Jr. Center – a 30,000- square-foot complex, designed by renowned architect Cesar Pelli, that combines lecture space, dining hall, libraries, a glass-enclosed courtyard, seminar rooms and a meditation chapel.
"It’s unprecedented to have that kind of an endowment for a Catholic ministry on a college campus," said Father Beloin.
Next was a $5-million renovation of the chapel, residence for the chaplain, meeting hall and offices, all completed in 2008 and rededicated with a ceremony and Mass celebrated by Archbishop Henry J. Mansell.
By 2011, more than 3,000 people had given at record-breaking levels; STM raised $75 million, $25 million for construction and renovation and $50 million for the endowment, nearly 15 times the original campaign goal.
"It’s been remarkable, so far beyond my expectations," said Father Beloin about the center’s evolution over the past nearly two decades. "It’s a beautiful design that’s open and transparent. At night, the building is just awash in light."
Ms. Robinson noted that today, STM boasts 14 new programs, three Sunday liturgies, the new center, a national reputation as a center for Catholic spiritual and intellectual excellence, and an endowment rivaling that of small colleges.
Among activities are a Wednesday night soup kitchen, lectures, seminars, social justice and service projects, small church communities, and a nationwide program called Esteem to develop the leadership skills of young Catholics that was conceived by Mr. Boisi, Ms. Robinson and Father Beloin. An initiative of NLRCM and STM, Esteem recruited students on campuses that include Stanford, Michigan State, Ohio State, UCLA and Sacred Heart in Fairfield.
"One of my interests now is to see courses for credit in Catholic theology from Yale College for undergraduates," said Father Beloin, who continues to fix his vision on the ever-expanding opportunities at STM. "It’s a tremendous place … a very stimulating environment where you see people from all over the world preaching and giving lectures. It’s a model of what an excellent campus ministry program can be at a secular university campus," he observed.